Activists’ concerns persist after video of fatal police shooting released

Video from a Dorchester County sheriff’s deputy’s cruiser shows officers aiming at Shamir Palmer shortly before he was fatally shot in 2015.

A video released this week shows Dorchester County deputies fatally shooting Shamir Palmer in August shortly after the 24-year-old got out of his SUV during a pursuit.

The deputies said Palmer, who had fired a shot from his SUV earlier in the chase, pointed a gun at them before they opened fire. It’s unclear from the footage whether the Ridgeville man is holding a weapon when he was shot several times.

The State Law Enforcement Division released the footage Wednesday in response to a S.C. Freedom of Information Act request from The Post and Courier. The Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office had refused to provide the footage.

First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe announced Sept. 9 that the deputies’ deadly force was justified and that he wouldn’t pursue charges. A gun was found at the scene, Pascoe noted in a letter.

After seeing the footage, local activists raised doubt that Palmer was holding the gun when he was shot. James Johnson, South Carolina president for the National Action Network, also criticized Coroner Chris Nisbet’s ruling that Palmer’s death was a suicide. Fatal shootings, even in self-defense, are homicides, but Nisbet, who was suspended from office Thursday because of an unrelated incident, said Palmer had created the conditions leading to his death so it was a suicide.

“They might have found a gun in the car,” Johnson said, “but Mr. Palmer was getting out of the car to surrender.”

On Aug. 8, a state trooper first tried to stop Palmer, a Ridgeville resident, for a traffic violation southwest of Summerville. During the ensuing chase, the driver of the green SUV fired a shot from his window. The trooper’s car was not hit.

Several deputies soon got involved in the chase. Palmer’s SUV crashed into some trees and eventually became disabled on Schultz Lake Road.

One deputy’s in-car video camera offered the best view of the fatal confrontation. It showed the SUV bounding through a clearing in some trees and hitting a paved road. The deputies approached with their guns drawn.

“Be careful,” one said.

Palmer threw open his door and stepped out.

Bathed in light from the patrol cruisers’ headlights, the area of the video where Palmer stood is overexposed. What might be in his hands isn’t visible.

The deputies barked commands. They fired, and Palmer retreated into the SUV.

The officers dragged out his limp body.

“Where’s the gun?” a deputy said. “Where’d the gun go?”

Soon, a deputy threw a card at another, who used it to mark something on the ground.

“That’s it,” one of the deputies said.

More than fives minutes later, the deputies started doing CPR on Palmer, who died at the scene.

In a separate video, two passengers who had hitched a ride with Palmer talked about bailing out minutes before the shooting.

“I’m glad he let us ... out of that car,” one said.

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